How much-loved Harrogate brewery has kept beer flowing during Covid pandemic

Daleside Brewery business development manager Vincent Staunton, left, with Martha Rudd and Des Bottomley of Ake & Humphries Wine and Beer Merchants in Harrogate which is stocking bottles of Daleside beer.Daleside Brewery business development manager Vincent Staunton, left, with Martha Rudd and Des Bottomley of Ake & Humphries Wine and Beer Merchants in Harrogate which is stocking bottles of Daleside beer.
Daleside Brewery business development manager Vincent Staunton, left, with Martha Rudd and Des Bottomley of Ake & Humphries Wine and Beer Merchants in Harrogate which is stocking bottles of Daleside beer.
When lockdown hit hard in late March, Daleside Brewery in Harrogate closed the doors of its small production plant in Starbeck and reluctantly furloughed most of its staff.

Like many other businesses - and people - across the country, it had a lot to worry about.

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Number one worry - how to save the beer this award-winning independent brewery had in its tanks from been poured down the drain.

The good news for quality beer lovers in Harrogate is, six months later, Daleside is still there and still surviving.

But how did it do it?

How has Harrogate's oldest beer firm managed to navigate the most challenging year for the beer industry?

Daleside's business development manager Vincent Staunton said: "In line with all companies in the hospitality sector, our business was thrown into turmoil when the country went into lockdown on March 23.

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"The brewery was mothballed in terms of brewing and most of the staff furloughed as part of the Government's job retention scheme.

"Daleside brewery is very fortunate to have so many loyal customers and consumers that enjoy our beers locally.

"Without their support we would not survive. We are so grateful to them."

But the story is not quite as simple as that for a brewery founded more than 30 years ago in the interim period between real ale and craft beer.

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Daleside was first launched in the mid-1980s, an era when only the Campaign for Real Ale and a few visionary small family businesses stood between beer lovers and the total domination in Britain of the big breweries.

It moved to its premises in Camwal Road in Starbeck in 1992 in the days when craft beer was barely a twinkle in anyone’s eye.

Under the stewardship of then head brewer Craig Witty and managing director Eric Lucas, Daleside soon became something of a favourite with judges from both CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) and SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers Association), picking up regular awards for its big hitters like Old Leg Over, Daleside Blonde and Monkey Wrench.

The brewery's basic approach under current head brewer Rob Millichamp hasn't changed, essentially.

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It still uses the best quality malts, whole-leaf hops,its own yeast and, perhaps most crucially of all, Harrogate water.

But it has adapted to the craft beer era with new varieties such as gin-infused pale ales and lemongrass Thai IPAs,

And it's also adapted to the harsh economic climate set by the nation's fight against the Covid pandemic.

Daleside's business development manager Vincent Staunton said: " With no immediate lifeline of knowing when the drinks industry would re-open, like many breweries we had to work quickly to save the beer we had in tanks from been poured down the drain.

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"We decided to ramp up our sales of bottles and 'Bag in Box' for home delivery, having already developed a social media campaign.

"We also made the decision to launch some new 500ml bottled beers, Pacesetter, 3.6% ABV golden ale, and Journey's End, a 4.5% ABV IPA, and bring back an old favourite in Old Lubrication, a 4.1% ABV English Bitter.

"We are currently in production with a beer for the Christmas market, Santa's Progress, a a 4.2% amber ale with plenty of fruit and malt notes."

Daleside's commitment to traditional methods, heritage recipes and its own recipes has put it in good stead in these challenging times - whether that’s casked real ales or premium bottled beers.

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There may be no panic but there's no resting on their laurels, either.

Vincent Staunton says Daleside recognises we are all going through "an incredibly difficult" time but taking a flexible and positive approach is the only thing to be done.

Not that the constant worry over the changing rules for dealing with the pandemic are helping the drinks industry, which remains in a fragile situation, to say the least.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), which represents more than 825 independent craft breweries, reacted to new Government measures announced this week with uncontained alarm.

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But Daleside, like others in Harrogate's dynamic independent brewery scene, is determined to overcome whatever is thrown at it.

Mr Staunton said: "Like everyone in the trade we remain positive and are trying to be as proactive as we can.

"The drinks industry was up until the latest shutdown measures gradually returning to some normality, albeit, not at the same levels of pre-COVID.

"2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for mankind. But we remain hopeful that life will return to normal over the coming months."

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